Category Archives: Paris

Baguette Hunting

We made a trip to Paris for their Bastille Day celebrations, and since we didn’t quite feel like having too much French food (all the cream and cheese isn’t quite A’s idea of a good time) we decided to make our food experience be about the search for the best baguette in Paris! Every year there is a competition for bakeries, the Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris, oh what a mouthful, to see whose baguettes are the crème de la crème. The winner of the competition gets to serve their baguettes to the President of France, and he’ll apparently only eat baguettes from that particular Boulangerie for the entire year.

Apparently, there’s a long and intricate history of bread in France. In the past, bread used to be made by hand (duh), but as technology began to develop, bread making starting being mechanized, and untraditional ingredients were added to make ‘bread’. Displeased with the bastardization of their proud bread making traditions, some French (insert snide French stereotype) artisan bakers, millers and experts fought against the new wave of rubbish bread, to preserve the integrity of French bread. In 1993, a law was passed (I kid you not) giving a special quality seal to breads made in the ‘proper’ way, and conferred upon them the title of ‘baguettes de tradition’. To make sure your bread gets that seal, it must be mixed, kneaded, leavened and baked in the shop, and nothing must be frozen. Only 4 ingredients are allowed in a ‘baguette de tradition’: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. Now, go try making your own.

Alternatively, do as we did, and buy one from a Boulangerie. A good sign that your baguette is the real deal is that there are large uneven holes inside, caused by the bread having been kneaded by hand, a deep golden yellow hue, and a crust that smells nutty or grilled.

 

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La Truffle Noire
228, rue de Vaugirard
PARIS 15e
Tel: 0147345441

Since Bastille Day is a national holiday, most places were closed. Hence, the Boulangeries we planned to go to were shut. Nevertheless, we did manage to find a Boulangerie that was open, and it had a long queue outside, and everyone emerging from the shop had a baguette in hand! This was La Truffle Noire.

This was our first ‘proper’ baguette, so we didn’t really know what to expect. It was warm and nicely toasted, and the insides were fluffy and soft. In stark contrast, the crust was extremely crispy. It was definitely so good you could eat it on its own.

We bought this baguette while walking to the Eiffel Tower for the Bastille Day fireworks, and just after a couple of meters we almost finished all the baguette! Along the way along Rue Cambronne we saw another Boulangerie (can’t remember the name unfortunately), and entirely on impulse we went in and bought another baguette to benchmark our first baguette against. The second baguette was definitely not as good as the first one. The dough was a lot sourer, and did not taste as delicate as our first one. Nevertheless, it was a very good baguette, probably much better than anyone you can find in UK.

We brought our baguettes to the empty space at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and had a little picnic while waiting for the fireworks to begin.

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Fabrice Pottier
231 Rue de Vaugirard,
75015 PARIS

The next day, we went to Fabrice Pottier. This Boulangerie was first runner up in 2008. Verdict: Also a great baguette. We’re beginning to wonder how those judges for the Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris judge the baguettes. Perhaps to our untrained palates they taste the same, but the difference is indeed so subtle that I’d be surprised if they were able to pick the baguette from the Boulangerie that won from a blind taste test.

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Boulangerie Alexine (Alexandre Planchais)
40 Rue Lepic,
75018 PARIS

We really wanted to go and try the number one baguette in Paris. However, it was closed for the entire second half of July. (Gosh, what would the President eat?!?!?) Luckily, further down the street is another Boulangerie, which won 10th in 2008 and 8th in 2007. This was Alexine, and it had the loveliest staff we’ve encountered all trip. The baguettes at Alexine are incredible thin, shockingly thin in fact, as compared to the other baguettes we’ve had. Tastewise, they were also incredibly delicious.

As a side note, we went absolutely baguette crazy on our last day in Paris, and bought so many of them that we brought the ones we couldn’t finish back with us, and froze them. Till today we have 2 more baguettes in the freezer, and they still taste fantastic after a couple of minutes in the oven.

Pierre Hermé

72 Rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris, France
0143544777
http://www.pierreherme.com/

According to guardian.co.uk, Pierre Hermé is the best place in the world to have chocolate cake. So with such a strong endorsement, we had to check it out.

The shop is extremely small, with no seating room at all. The queues can be quite incredible, as from some online reviews, but we were there rather late, so we didn’t have to wait too long for it to be our turn. 

Naturally, we bought the chocolate cake. We didn’t eat it on the spot, but brought it back with us to London to eat. We bought as well 6 macaroons: pistachio, rose, praline, passion fruit (2 of this) and raspberry. These we ate while waiting for the train back to London.

 

The verdict: we like Laduree’s much better. The star of Laduree’s macaroons is the macaroons, which were crispy yet soft. The macaroons at Pierre Hermé focused much more on the cream fillings and not on the macaroons themselves, so we felt like they were too heavy. In fact, we hardly tasted any macaroon at all. Also, not all the cream fillings were pleasant – in particular, the pistachio tasted very artificial, almost like marzipan. However, the rose filling was surprisingly good. We didn’t mind that at all.

 

As with the chocolate cake, K found it a huge disappointment. I’ve to add that he likes his cakes creamy and soft, while the cake we bought from Pierre Hermé was a lot more ‘meaty’, if that is an appropriate word to use at all. I certainly didn’t mind it. Best chocolate cake in the world? Nah, not a chance, but it was definitely not bad. We wouldn’t bother going for another round though – once is good enough.

Food: 6.5/10

Ladurée

75 avenue des Champs Elysées
75008 Paris
0140750875
http://www.laduree.fr/

Opening Hours
Monday to Saturday 7.30am-12am
Sunday 8.30am-12am 

Ladurée was somewhere we were really excited to go to in Paris. We made a reservation for noon, and being so excited to go there we were 15 minutes early. However, we were told we couldn’t be seated since they were not opened yet – what a bummer. This however, gave us the chance to look in the pastry shop, and we got a chocolate croissant as our pre-meal starter. That was not too sweet, and beautifully flaky.

 

At noon we were seated, and we ordered a pot of Jasmine Green Tea (yes, we are huge fans of green tea, we have it everywhere!) which was nicely fragrant, and a pot of hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was shockingly thick, and A couldn’t drink more than a few teaspoons of it before feeling like she was going to have a sore throat coming. I found it way too strong as well, and tried diluting it with some water, which helped make it more drinkable.

 

For mains we had 2 sandwiches. A had the Club Ladurée and I had the Club Saumon (salmon). Both of the sandwiches were going to be served with salad and chips, but since we’ve both given up chips (well, actually, we’ve given up potato snacks) for lent, we asked them to give us all salads instead. Both our sandwiches came with horseradish, which we didn’t enjoy very much (personal taste) but it was bearable. The sandwiches were alright, nothing to rave about, but I do have to add that my sandwich came absolutely loaded with salmon. It was truly a generous serving of salmon on my plate. We both commented that having just salad instead of salad and chips made it feel like an extremely healthy meal. (Yay to Lent!)

 

Being in Ladurée, there was no chance we could pass on having macaroons. We ordered a few macaroons: pistachio, lemon and praline, 2 of each. The macaroons were crispy yet soft, and the cream was a good addition for us to be able to appreciate the texture of the macaroon, yet not distract from it. Ladurée prides itself on its macaroons, and we can fully understand why.

Overall, we weren’t wowed by the food we had, but we would gladly go in for pastries and macaroons anytime.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 7.5/10

Chez Fernand

13, rue Guisarde
75006 Paris
0143546147

We wanted to go to Pierre Hermes for chocolate cake, as it was listed in the Guardian’s list of top 50 things to eat in the world and where to eat them. However, we were too late and it was closed. So we walked around looking for a place to chill out and have some dinner. We walked along this very vibrant and exciting street with rows and rows of restaurants, and eventually settled on Chez Fernand. For some reason we were very drawn to this humble looking place. What clinched it for us was one of the locals who gave a thumbs-up sign to A as he was walking in for dinner himself.

Chez Fernand is a tiny little restaurant, with hardly any moveable space between tables. In fact, our server had to pull out our table in order to let A in her seat. The atmosphere in the restaurant was extremely homey and relaxed, and they had a list of daily specials, which they displayed on a chalk board.

We looked around to observe what the other diners were having, and it seemed like this dish served in a golden pot with rice was by far the most popular option. We asked our neighboring table for the name of the dish – Veal Bourguignon, and we ordered it, and also a steak with bone marrow.

The Bourguignon was very tasty. This is a home-style French country dish, and it contained delicious chunks of veal and mushrooms. The rice that it came with was ordinary, but was instantly flavored by the rich creamy sauce.

The steak was absolutely enormous. It came with a creamy mashed potato, and a piece of hollow bone with lots of creamy marrow inside. The marrow was smooth and buttery, and the steak was fantastic. It was a very generous size for its price, and the mashed potato balanced the dish very well, by countering the heaviness of the meat.

Our dessert menu was presented to us on another chalk board. By that time we had already made our minds by observing the other table beside ours. We decided to have the sorbet. This also came in a huge bowl. The berry flavored sorbets were extremely refreshing and woke us up immediately. A found them a bit too sour. The mango sorbet was delicious though.

Overall we felt very lucky to be able to quite literally stumble upon this fantastic restaurant. The food is very simple and rustic, and the whole concept is very warm and inviting. This is definitely worth a repeat visit the next time we go to Paris.

Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10

Taillevent

15 Rue Lamennais
75008 Paris, France
01 44 95 15 01
http://www.taillevent.com/

We were going to Paris for the weekend, and we wanted to experience eating in a really posh French restaurant for the first (and probably only) time in our lives. We decided to really splurge on lunch at Taillevent, having read awesome reviews about it online. Taillevent was awarded 3 Michelin stars for 34 years, and only recently was it demoted to just 2 Michelin stars. (Hey, if you have to do something only once in your life, make it count!)

The dining room was very modestly decorated, and we were ushered to a table and sat side by side. This gave us the chance to observe the servers at work and the other diners in the restaurant as well. Our servers were all very professional, and we liked how they presented our dishes to us in pairs, laying down the plates at exactly the same time.

Almost immediately after we sat down, we were presented with a plate of 6 bread balls with cheese. I’m probably not doing it any justice by calling it that, but I forget the French name (excuse moi). Being novices at dining in such fine establishments, we didn’t know whether to use our hands or not, and our server very politely told us “it’s ok to use your hands”. So we dug straight in, and they tasted heavenly. The taste of cheese wasn’t overpowering, which was good as A doesn’t like cheese very much, and they were light and almost pastry-like. We should have finished them immediately though, as once they got cold they lost their fluffy texture.

We were offered bread at almost every opportunity, and every single bread roll was still steaming as it was served to us.

We were given an amuse bouche, and this was a delicious foam with foie gras. It was amazing how something so light and inconsequential as foam could be so tasty, and I loved every bit of it. A found the buttery texture at the bottom of the cup too much for her, and I happily offered to finish her portion.

Our starters came next. I had the Pumpkin Risotto, with bacon. The bacon was the most thinly sliced item of food I have ever had, I’m not kidding you, and it was just wonderfully delicate. I didn’t understand the connection between the bacon and the sweet risotto, but I’m sure definitely not complaining! A had a Scallop Carpaccio starter, which was delicious as well. The slightly sour fruit salad it came with brought the entire dish together perfectly.

For mains we both had the lamb cutlets which were good, but once again, not the best lamb dish we’ve ever had. The lamb was tender and juicy, and didn’t smell too much of lamb, as it generally tends to.

My cheese platter was incredible. I didn’t think I would enjoy the brie initially, but I really did. The apple slices that were served together on the plate were the perfect companion to the cheese, which was not too pungent. A doesn’t like cheese, so she had a salad, which was slightly too over-dressed and too sour for her liking.

Our desserts were both very good. I had the Chocolate puff with ice cream, and A had the Mango with coconut ice cream. The coconut ice cream was surprisingly full of flavor, and the mango lent a nice tropical touch to the dessert. My chocolate dessert was adequately rich without being too overpowering, as I still managed to taste the coconut ice cream that A had after a bite of my chocolate.

Overall, we had a very good time pretending to be members of high society. We felt that the service was very professional and the food very well cooked. Throughout the meal we kept asking ourselves what is special about French cooking and French food. We didn’t come to a conclusion at the end of our meal, as we’re both not experts in this area, so we welcome comments and discussion to help us widen our food horizons.

Additional Comments: Formal wear recommended, and their menu changes constantly, so there’s very little chance of ordering what we had for yourselves.

Service: 9/10
Food: 8.5/10

Refuge des Fondus

17 rue des 3 Frères
75018 Paris
01 42 55 22 65

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday 7pm-12midnight

This is a very cool restaurant. They have just 2 items on the menu: Cheese fondue, or Meat fondue. It is a very small restaurant, with just 2 long rows of tables. When you enter the restaurant you are ushered to your seat, and those who are seating inside (ie with their backs against the wall) have to climb over the tables to get into their seat – very interesting indeed. There’s graffiti all over the walls, and a very extensive collection of currencies from all around the world.

The first thing that we were presented with was wine, which came in milk bottles! On hindsight it was definitely rather disgusting sucking on the bottle, and I hope they clean and sterilize it thoroughly after each use, but while we were there it was very novel indeed.

 

The food is definitely not French, and it is definitely not fine dining, but it is great fun eating at Refuge des Fondus. The aperitifs and light nibbles are served next, and very soon later, the pots of oil (or cheese depending on what you order) arrive. To cook the meat in the meat fondue you skewer the meat and dunk them in the pot with oil. We feel that the oil at Refuge des Fondus is not as sickening as some of those we’ve had in Switzerland, and you don’t feel like you’re going to gain 10pounds afterwards. The cheese fondue is pretty good as well, and definitely not as strong as the ones we’ve had in Switzerland, which suits A much better.

 

Overall, this is a very nice place to go and have a good time – definitely not for the uptight. From the way you climb into your seats to the way you drink your wine, those who are particular about table manners and etiquette will be in for a huge shock!

Service: 7/10
Food: 7/10